The Liberal Democrats are aiming to stimulate at least £100 billion of private investment in the UK’s renewable energy infrastructure and want a third of the UK’s energy demand to be met from renewable sources by 2020.
The party has set the targets in its 2015 election manifesto, launched today by leader Nick Clegg at an event in south London.
The document outlines the party’s five “green laws” focused on improving the UK’s commitment to the environment with energy policy playing a central theme.
Clegg stated that his party had been instrumental in the trebling of renewable energy generation recorded since the current coalition assumed power in 2010 and outlined a number of ambitious targets for the adoption of and investment in renewable technologies.
The party has worked with the Committee for Climate Change (CCC) to establish a decarbonisation target for the power sector of 50-100g per kWh by 2030, and the party also aims to work towards a “Zero Carbon Britain” status – to be monitored and audited by the CCC – by 2050.
To achieve the decarbonisation figure the Lib Dems are targeting to generate 60% of the UK’s power demand from renewable sources by 2030, triggered by giving the Green Investment Bank full borrowing powers to boost investment in low-carbon technologies and complement the £100 billion private investment it intends to stimulate.
Also included in the manifesto is an expression of support for energy storage and various other energy efficiency technologies, and an abolishment of unabated coal energy plants by 2025.
The Green Buildings Act
The Lib Dems have also committed to introducing a Green Buildings Act which it hopes will help drive investment in energy efficiency measures for the UK’s draughty property stock.
The proposed act would provide a Council Tax discount to those properties that invested in “significant” energy efficiency improvements.
In addition, the Lib Dems would introduce a target for all social and private rented homes to reach Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) band C by 2027. Similarly, the party wants to bring all fuel-poor households up to band C by 2027.
The manifesto also reveals that the Lib Dems would look to require regulators to ensure that deep geothermal heat, large-scale heat pumps, waste industrial heat and energy storage systems are developed across the UK. The party would also look to give government new powers that would allow it to introduce new energy efficiency and heat saving regulations that would help reduce the UK’s heat and energy use.
The Green Transport Act
The Lib Dems have also included ambitious plans to green the UK’s transport sector, something the party sees as vital if we are to facilitate the move to a low-carbon economy. The manifesto reveals that the party would introduce a statutory target to electrify all major rail routes by 2030. In addition, the Lib Dems would ensure that all new buses and taxis in the UK after 2030 would qualify as Ultra Low Emission Vehicles, going further in 2040 to ensure that all cars on the road meet the ULEV requirement.
As part of the manifesto’s ongoing pledge to tackle air pollution, the Lib Dems would create Low Emission Zones in the UK’s most polluted towns and cities. The party has also confirmed that it would actively look at ways it could foster innovation in transport, listing the development of driverless cars and electric vehicles as examples.
‘Most surprising, most disappointing’ manifesto
Despite the number of commitments to the UK clean energy market, the Renewable Energy Association’s head of external affairs, James Court, remains underwhelmed by the manifesto. He said: “Of all the manifestos released this week, the Liberal Democrats’ is the one that is both the most surprising, and the most disappointing to the wider renewable energy industry.
“Whilst we welcome their acknowledgement of the importance of renewable energy to the UK’s energy mix, including support for the commercialisation of key technologies, they have also turned their back on policies that will make a real difference to a cost effective low-carbon transition that will benefit UK PLC as well as energy consumers.
“Without a mention of solar, the Lib Dems have also signalled their disdain for large biomass, a technology that provides a more cost-effective baseload low-carbon generation than their much heralded Hinkley C nuclear ambitions. Such policies seem to have been formed off the back of misguided views on forest sustainability that has no foundation in evidence and has even been discredited by DECC, a department they have run for the past five years.
“Whilst encouraging that they have acknowledged the growth of anaerobic digestion to produce biogas for heat and transport, their recommendation to end all support for crop based biofuels shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the reality of farming and crops and the practicality of running AD plants as part of the circular economy.”
All parties appear split on energy policy and the support offered to solar and other renewable energy sources.